Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Proper Usage of Numbers in Literature ( ? )

Number Usages
i came across a list of 'Rules' that pertained to The Use of Numerals, Numbers, Numerators, Numericals, Integers, Digits, Symbols, Pictoglyphs, Cardinal & Ordinal Numbers, Quantities, Quotas, Tallies, Aggregates, Totals, Characters & Words as Ephemeral or Eternal Conceptual Portions.
Naturally; i disagreed with many of their precepts.
Fortunately; This listing was accompanied by a lengthy supplementation of comments, which i will draw from, As well as add my own thoughts to, to amend and correct The Original Listing.
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A Number is A Conceptual Quantity,
Most readily used to indicate A Simple Tally of Whole Units.
There are Four Apples in The Basket.
A Numeral is A Pictoglyph or Word that Indicates a Numerical Value.
The Population of The World is 6,938,928 Traffic Cones.
The Idea of 3 is a Number; The Character '3' is a Numeral.
Ordinal Numbers refer to An Item's Relative Position;
The First Son was standing behind The Last Wife of The Eighth King.
Cardinal Numbers are specific Values;
There is One Black Cat & Five Blue Ones in The Basket.
The Borg Mix these;
To The Great Chagrin of The Federation.
Seven of Nine
Fifth of Twelve
Three of Eighths
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Smaller Numbers should be spelled out.
Zero, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven & Twelve are Iconic Numbers and should be treated as Royalty.
Thirteen breaks This Stream of Immediately Recognized Quantities and may be Written as 13 when convenient to do so.
A Second & Third School of Thought suggests that This Initial Series should Only go to Nine, While The Actual 'Cognizant' Value that most people can 'Recognize' without counting, is Seven.
That is; If you see Five or Six birds, randomly distributed on a lawn, you will immediately 'know' that there are a specific number of birds in your field of vision. If there are Nine or Seventeen Birds; Your brain will merely tell your consciousness that there are 'Birds' on The Lawn.
Naturally; If The Birds are Arranged in 'Patterns' Then you will be able to Identify Much Larger Quantities.
If you're going to use this Rule; Perhaps you should take steps to find out what your personal 'Limit' for Subliminal Counting is; And use that Value for your Break Number that you Spell Out as A Word, and Thereafter; Use A Numerical Pictoglyph.
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As A Side Note:
3, 7 & 9 are Unique Pictoglyphs for Numbers,
But are 11, 39, 290 & 2,938,928 Pictoglyphs or Collections of Pictoglyphs?
Since Each represents A Unique Value;
Each is a Unique Pictoglyph. ( ? )
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This Next Point is Very Exasperating;
And i first became aware of it when i Started using HP Calculators
That allowed The User to Set a Preference
For Which Decimal Indicator they would like to use.
Along with this;
Is The Character used to Break Large Numbers Up,
So as to make them Easier to Read.
e.g.; 383,990,029,920.25
The Period & Comma in this Usage are in Common in North America, and Possibly Britain,
But Nearly all other Nations use The Opposite Method;
e.g.; 783.920.020.982,333
Thank The gawds that we all agree that The Numerical Sets should Consist of 3 Digits.
Another Usage is 484 920 202 939. 202 991
Which is completely crazy.
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i once had a teacher that insisted that when 'saying' a large number, such as Two Hundred Twenty and Three;
This would mean 220.3.
The purpose of Language is to Convey Clear & Unambiguous Ideas,
And this Usage is clearly begging for trouble.
The More Correct Expression would be Two Hundred & Twenty, Point Three.
The Most Correct Expression would Two Two Zero Point Three, when used to convey an amount over The Phone.
In Writing; It would be; 220.3.
Any time a Decimal Enters into a Value;
Use All Digits.
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The Possible Exception to that would be Readily Recognized Simple Fractions.
One & A Half may be written out;
While 1½ is Probably Better.
1 1/2 is asking for trouble.
Seven & Twelve Sixteenths should be Expressed as a Decimal Value :
7.75 or Possibly : 7¾
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How should you Write 22?
Twenty Two or Twentytwo ?
It may be that my spell checker is simply too lazy
To include all The Numbers to A Million or More;
But The Dictionary Fails to Recognize Twentytwo as well.
Twenty Two just seems Deeply Wrong and An Invitation for Ambiguity.
Which is Why; Large Numbers should be Written out as Pictoglyphs : 22.
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Even Larger Numbers such as Four Billion, Three Hundred & Two Thousand & Sixtyfour might very easily convey A Value that diverges from The Desired Quantity.
Write it Out : 4,000,302,064
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This comes back to commas as separators.
i've gotten very use to this; and periods are just wrong.
But i would also allow that commas are flawed.
There is a slim chance of confusion, especially when The text is Block Justified, which may skewer The Spacing to make it seem like 3, 302, 064 ( ? )
What is a Better Method?
3·302·064.92 ( ? )
i like The Little Pea, but it's tedious to use.
3)302)064.92
8/234/991·432/329/7
83702883819173.6721
72289817827191.892371
If Computers could automatically insert These Dividers,
That would be a step in The Right Direction.
Another approach may be If we were to start printing all our text in a highly formatted structure, kind of like Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics, in which The Names of Royalty were placed inside Cartouches, or Oval Boxes.
Under this System; Numbers would be very specifically formatted, so that whatever their usage or value, They couldn't be mistaken for anything else.
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Another Digression:
Numerical Sequences which Use Letters and Other Symbols,
Typically in Warehouse Inventory Identification Labels,
Should NOT use Ambiguous Characters !
Such as :
0/O
1 vs l
2 vs R
3 vs E
4 vs 9
5 vs S
6 vs b
7 vs T
8 vs B
9 vs q
Which Means All of them !
Such Identification Labels should NEVER be Contextualess.
They should always be Nonsensical Combinations of Familiar Animals, Plants, Written Numbers, Utensils, and such.
8729-RI90-O21
Should be :
Blind Zebra Nine Green Toaster Tall Spoon Slash Six One
Or Maybe in Consideration of Brevity;
Such Words may Never be Longer than Four Letters.
Blue Goat Red Newt Fast Leaf Two Six
Numbers May be Reduced for This Purpose :
One Two Thre Four Five Six Sevn Ate Ninr Ten
The Use of Word Sets could Indicate Special Classes of Items.
Animals mean The Item is for Electrical Tools,
Or whatever.
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When Saying Numbers or Letters in Any Context that May allow for The Tiniest Potential for Ambiguity, Such as Telephone Numbers or Inventory Labels;
Always use The Ham Radio Pronunciations with Distinct Pauses between Each AlphaNumerical Character :
Zee Row
Won
Too
Three
For rah
Fie Vah
Sicks or Sticks
Sev En
Ate
Niner
Ten
When Using A Word as A Single Character;
You may forget The 'Correct' Ham Radio Designators;
So for Consistency; Try to Remember These Rules of Thumb :
The Word should be A Distinct & Familiar Noun,
Like A Common Animal or Object, Or Very Unique Idea.
It should consist of Two or Three Syllables,
But Not Two or More Distinct Words that Make One Word.
e.g.; Bad Examples :
Eyeball may be thought to be Eye Ball or E-B
Iguana for I is bad because it sounds like E-Guana !
Alpha
Beta or Baby
Candy
Delta
Elephant
Fandango
Grape
Hippopotamus
Irish
Juvenile
Kangaroo
Lemonade
Macaroni / Machine
Neurotic
Octopus
Paper
Quasar
Raccoon
Sacred
Teacher
Unicorn
Vampire
Weasel
X-Ray
Yodel
Zebra
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Sentences in Stories or Formal Expositions should Never begin with a Number.
If you'd really like to use a Large Number which demands that it be written out in Digits; Reformulate your Sentence.
68,928 Birds were killed by Darkened Lighthouses last year.
Should become;
Darkened Lighthouses killed 68,928 Birds last year.
Five Cats are being kept in my closet.
Is OK.
I'm keeping Five Cats in my Closet.
Is Better.
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Centuries, Decades & Iconographic or Ideological Class Sets should be Written out as Numerals.
The Twentieth Century
The Gadfly Seventies.
The Seventh Division
The First in his Class
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1st, 8th, 2nd should only be used for dates.
July 1st, 1844
2nd of September
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Use of The Word Percentage.
Whenever an Actual Value is Included; 37%
The Symbol should be used;
But if you're speaking generally;
There is a Larger Percentage of Albinos living in The Refrigerator Crates than Chileans.
Is Preferred.
36 Percent vs 36%
Four Percent vs 4%
Using The Symbol seems A Lot Clearer to me.
Percent refers to A Conceptual Notion
Per Cent is An Abbreviation of The Description of The Calculation.
It is Belabored & Wrong.
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Recipes should always use Numerals.
3 Cups.
287 Slightly Heaping
 Teaspoons.
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Unit Quantities should be Written :
3_Tsp
44_mph
.0183_Å
If A Unit Quantity is Used in A Context which Beggars Ambiguity or Confusion,
Such as When Writing for Attentive Third Graders;
3.26_ly should be 3.26 LightYears
27_kpd should be 27 Kilometers per Day*
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* Digression :
Something very fun that my HP 48 will do,
Is Convert 'Regular' Quantities into 'Crazy' Quantities.
60_mph = 1,267,197.46 Fathoms per Day
If i 'Define' a Shoelace as being 27 inches long.
'27_in' 'Shoe' STO
i can then use this new Unit Length
Exactly The Same Way i can use All The Other 'Orthodox' Units !
Speed of Light = 1_c
1_Shoe/yr ( Shoelaces per Year )
CONVERT
Warp One = 1.379 E 16_spy
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End Digression
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Avoid Arranging Two Numbers Next to One Another.
Three Four year olds fell in The Well.
It's not quite as confusing as A Double Negative,
But it's Ambiguous Enough to Avoid.
Try;
Three Children, Each of which; was Four years old, fell into The Well.
That sounds awfully labored ( ? )
It would be worse if you'd written;
3 4 year olds fell into The Well.
How about;
Three Preschoolers fell into The Well. The Oldest was Four, The Youngest, Also Four, and The Middle child was Four as well.
Using The Word 'Well' Twice in one Sentence,
with very different meanings is also confusing.
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The Use of Millions, Billions, Trillions ( et. al. )
As mentioned earlier;
Writing out large numbers as Numerals;
Four Billion, Sixtythree Million, Eight Hundred & Twentyone, And Sixteen
Is very confusing;
But—
If you're bandying about vague generalities as part of slur or disingenuous political argument;
Six Quadrillion Democratic Paraplegics are in favor of this Proposition.
Is much better than 6,000,000,000,000,000 Democratic Paraplegics…
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Consistency is The Jingoistic Fanaticism of The Small Minded Albinos or One Legged Sailors, But— You shouldn't Mix Metaphors or Cardinal & Ordinal Numbers just to annoy librarians either.
Use The 'Does is Make a Good Haiku' Rule of Thumb
To judge whether a Sentence is Reasonable or not.
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